SHOPRITE country general manager Charles Bota says all their stores have run out of onion countrywide, adding that local farmers only manage to meet demand in terms of quality and volume during the onion season.
On February 21, this year, the government announced a ban on the importation of onion and potatoes into the country until further notice.
This followed a complaint raised by the Zambia National Farmers Union over the flooding of the local market with the commodities that can be produced locally.
And responding to a press query, Tuesday, Bota said for the past two and a half months, Shoprite had been receiving approximately 16 percent of what they order, translating into an 84 percent shortfall.
“Yes none of our stores currently have onion on sale. Yes, the last two and half months we have been receiving approximately 16% of what we order. We were 84% short,” he said.
Asked if the products supplied by local farmers meet their standard, Bota said it was not of supermarket shelf standard.
“No, it is not supermarket shelf standard. We have more returns than we have product to sell,” Bota said.
Asked if the Zambian farmers had the capacity to meet their demand, he said only during the onion season, which was from June to February.
“In the onion season of June to February, yes we have 100% of our demand both quality and volume met locally and we do not need to import. However, in the off-season months of March to May there is no capacity in terms of quality to meet our demand. Storage facilities for the off-season are very poor,” Bota said.
Further asked if he would recommend that the government lifts the ban on the importation of the commodity, he said at the moment it would be ideal to do so.
“At this stage yes till the end of May. Only in the off-season months of March to the end of May do we need imports. June to February we do not need to import as local quality and volumes are enough to meet our demand. If the issues of proper storage in the off-season are resolved so that we have supermarket shelf quality, only then would the matter of imports in that season be a thing of the past,” stated Bota.